EADT Suffolk - - News -

THE Walk­ers are Wel­come scheme is strid­ing out across Suf­folk, en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal peo­ple and vis­i­tors to en­joy the county’s land­scapes, her­itage and wildlife, and help­ing to boost lo­cal economies.

The county now has two Walk­ers are Wel­come com­mu­ni­ties. Clare has re­ceived full ac­cred­i­ta­tion in the na­tional scheme, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Shotley. Eye will be­come Suf­folk’s third ac­cred­ited com­mu­nity this spring and sev­eral oth­ers are on the way.

Clare, a com­mu­nity with a proud his­tory and a stun­ning Stour Val­ley set­ting, cel­e­brated its ac­cred­i­ta­tion with a for­mal launch at the town’s Bell Ho­tel and a stroll around some of the town’s main her­itage high­lights. Derek Blake, chair­man of the thriv­ing Clare Walk­ers group and a driv­ing force in es­tab­lish­ing the com­mu­nity as a Walk­ers are Wel­come town, said the ac­cred­i­ta­tion was “born of Clare’s won­der­ful coun­try park.” The com­mu­nity has taken own­er­ship of the park in re­cent years, a move that has pro­vided im­pe­tus to Clare’s al­ready strong fo­cus on the ben­e­fits of walk­ing.

“Lo­cal com­mu­nity own­er­ship of the park has to­tally re-en­er­gised it and there is great af­fec­tion for it. There is a strong com­mu­nity spirit here and walk­ing has re­ally caught the mood in Clare,” he said. The team worked on its ac­cred­i­ta­tion in part­ner­ship with the lo­cal busi­ness as­so­ci­a­tion, town coun­cil and oth­ers. County coun­cil­lor Mary Evans also pushed for three Walk­ers are Wel­come signs to be dis­played on road­signs lead­ing into the town. She at­tended the launch along with about 60 peo­ple, in­clud­ing South Suf­folk MP James Cartlidge and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Ram­blers, One Life Suf­folk, Nordic Walk­ing East Anglia and other part­ner or­gan­i­sa­tions. Mr Cartlidge, Par­lia­men­tary Pri­vate Sec­re­tary to Health Sec­re­tary Jeremy Hunt, spoke of the health and well­be­ing ben­e­fits of walk­ing, and said ini­tia­tives such as Walk­ers are Wel­come had a pre­ven­ta­tive role, help­ing to pro­mote healthy life­styles, with ben­e­fits for men­tal and phys­i­cal health

In a mes­sage to the launch, the scheme’s pa­tron, Kate Ash­brook, con­grat­u­lated Clare on be­com­ing the first Walk­ers are Wel­come town in west Suf­folk and the sec­ond in Suf­folk, joining the grow­ing al­liance of East Anglian towns.

“You will help to put Suf­folk on the walk­ers’ map as a county of im­mense beauty, va­ri­ety and in­ter­est, for its wildlife, his­tory and fine land­scapes. By en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to visit and walk your paths you will help to keep them open for all to en­joy,” she said.

Walk­ers are Wel­come sta­tus is awarded to towns and vil­lages that sup­port walk­ers by meet­ing na­tional cri­te­ria such as pro­duc­ing leaflets, maps and other in­for­ma­tion, or­gan­is­ing walks, help­ing to main­tain foot­paths and en­sur­ing that cafes, pubs, shops and B&Bs give walk­ers a warm wel­come. The na­tional self-gov­ern­ing scheme is run by the char­ity Walk­ers are Wel­come CIC and be­gan in Heb­den Bridge, West York­shire, in 2007. It now has a mem­ber­ship of more than 100 towns and vil­lages through­out the coun­try.

The Suf­folk Walk­ers are Wel­come Al­liance in­cludes Snape, Sud­bury and Bury St Ed­munds, who are work­ing to­wards ac­cred­i­ta­tion, as well as Shotley, Clare and Eye. They are sup­ported by the Green Ac­cess Team at Suf­folk County Coun­cil. Eye is plan­ning a launch of its full ac­cred­i­ta­tion in May.

For more in­for­ma­tion about Walk­ers are Wel­come visit www.walk­er­sarewel­come.org.uk.

Walk­ers are Wel­come gets un­der­way at Clare Cas­tle in Clare Coun­try Park

Clare Walk­ers group chair­man Derek Blake and St Ed­munds­bury coun­cil­lor Alaric Pugh

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